“You can’t keep leaving her there all day.”
“She seems happy enough.”
“How would you know?”
“Look. She has friends there.”
“There’s Mrs. Friedl, Mrs. Abernathy…”
“Both of them as old as herself. And they’re not in the mall all day, either.”
“If you have a better idea, let’s hear it.”
“You know my idea. Medicare pays for most of it.”
“That’s because they know that as soon as you put your mother in one of those places it’s only a matter of months before she’s no longer a problem.”
“Better than dropping her at the mall.”
The realtor smiled, lipstick on her teeth. “Now for the best part,” she cooed, unlocking the back door. Her heels sounded like a cart-horse, he thought.
In the back yard stood a stone house, ancient and menacing. “Isn’t it wonderful? A historian said it predates the house by at least a century!”
“Can that be my playhouse, Daddy?” Dot asked, pulling his hand.
“Where’d this stone come from?” he asked the realtor.
“I’ll need to check,” she said, thumbing the listing. “Nothing in here.”
“It’s charming” said Margie.
He jabbed the mortar with his pocketknife, wondering about an outdoor fireplace.
If she’d spent the extra money for a private deck on the stateroom, I could have done it any time. As it was, I had to get her onto the Lido deck when nobody was watching.
She always had this thing about being mistaken for my mother, and made a point to kiss or caress me in public so there’d be no mistake. It got stares, let me tell you.
The timing was bad, since so many people had seen us together. I’m getting cabin fever, but it isn’t smart to be seen without her.
Somebody might start asking questions.
“You heard that Tommy’s ma went to the cops?”
“They won’t do shit to a priest. Besides, the little fucker’s probably lying.”
“Yeah? How do you know?”
“Because Father tried the same thing with me.”
“Swear to Jesus. Midnight mass last year. Father asked me to stay after.”
“Holy shit. What happened?”
“He told me to drink up the communion wine if I wanted. I got a creepy feeling and told him I needed to use the john. I slipped out the vestry door and went home.”
“So nothing happened.”
“Only because I’m not a dumbass like Tommy.”
The idea was mine. “Nobody ever hits restaurants. Bars, liquor stores, gas stations, sure. Why not restaurants?”
Jacks, a burger and fish joint, but nice. I cased it good. Lots of cash transactions, not much staff. Right next to the culvert, so we could get away on the dirt bikes.
They closed at one, so fifteen minutes after I walked into the front, Davy into the back, shotguns ready. In and out.
But it didn’t go like that.
“That Mexican dishwasher is playing dumb,” Davy said. “You understand plenty good, you sonofabitch. ” And Davy shot him full in the chest.
Joe was head down at his desk, working away with his Barlow while the teacher’s back was turned.
It was amazing to see how the knife knew where to go, tracing the outlines of the face and making it seem to rise up out of the maple board. He glanced up. Mrs. Withers was still scratching away at the blackboard with her chalk.
Joe brushed away the shavings. It looked like his mother, or would if he could just get the eyes right. He bent close to study it.
“Joseph Bily!” Mrs. Withers slapped her ruler hard on the desk.
the way he explained it sounded easy.
another city another name
a fresh start away
no more of the snake eating its tail
billy, he don’t ask questions
too young I expect
to miss any of this
but the kid surprised me
with his memory
called us by our old name
more than once after I told him
he must never ever
he missed the old apartment
missed his old room and toy cars
I’ll get you new cars I said
better than those old ones
you can play all day and not even miss them